Cherokee Nation Files Lawsuit Against Big Pharma Over Opioid Epidemic

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Alex Thomas via,

Late last week, lawyers representing the Cherokee Nation filed a lawsuit against major pharmaceutical companies, claiming they have pumped dangerous painkillers into Native American communities in Oklahoma. The Washington Post obtained a copy of the court filing and reported that the companies are accused of breaking laws by failing to prevent the diversion of pain pills to the black market.”

Specifically, the suit claims the corporations “turned a blind eye to the problem of opioid diversion and profited from the sale of prescription opioids to the citizens of the Cherokee Nation in quantities that far exceeded the number of prescriptions that could reasonably have been used for legitimate medical purposes.” With the markets bursting with pain pills, the drugs quickly found their way onto the black market. Lawyers for the Cherokee Nation posit that the companies bear some of the responsibility for that “opioid diversion.”

The claim the opioid crisis has caused the Cherokee Nation to incur “increased spending on law enforcement, medical facilities, drug treatment centers and foster and adoption programs,” the Post reported.

Attorneys hope that by filing the suits in tribal court, they will be able to gain quicker access to records that could show distinct negligence on the part of major drug companies. The suit names McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen, which together control 85% of prescription drug distribution in the United States. Walgreen’s and CVS are also included in the suit.

In late 2016, an investigative piece by the West Virginia Gazette reported that the same three companies supplied more than half of all pain pills statewide” while West Virginia was in the throes of a massive opioid crisis. In one county, AmerisouceBergen went from distributing 292,000 pills to 1.2 million pills in a single year. In a statement, Amerisource passed the blame, saying doctors and pharmacists — not the companies — were to blame.

In reference to the Cherokee Nation lawsuit, AmerisourceBergen issued a statement similar to their West Virginia defense, claiming the issue of opioid abuse is a complex one that spans the full healthcare spectrum, including manufacturers, wholesalers, insurers, prescribers, pharmacists and regulatory and enforcement agencies.” However, Cherokee Attorney General Todd Hembree didn’t seem to echo the drug companies’ sentiments. He claimed the corporations’ “main goal is profit, and this scourge has cost lives and the Cherokee Nation millions.” The West Virginia Gazette article reported that the CEOs of the three major companies have collectively been paid $450 million in the past four years.

Like the lawsuit leveled against the companies in West Virginia, the Cherokee lawsuit charges the companies, commonly referred to as “the big three,” with pursuing “unfair and deceptive practices.”

These defendants really had the ability to limit the number of deaths and the level of addiction if they just followed the law,” said Richard Fields, a lawyer for the Cherokees.

The lawsuit alleges that in 2015, the companies pumped enough drugs into the Cherokee Nation to provide every adult and child with 955 5mg pills.” In West Virginia, that number was 433.

And the companies have put their earnings to good use, filling the pockets of politicians they hope might be sympathetic to their causes. The Center for Responsive Politics showed that AmerisourceBergen gave $20k to Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and over $10k to Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) — both of whom have loud voices in Washington DC.

The Cherokee Nation’s lawsuit is unlikely to be the last filed against the “big three,” as the opioid crisis sweeping the nation shows no signs of slowing down. A fact sheet published by the American Society of Addiction Medicine states that “heroin overdose deaths among women have tripled [from 2010 to 2013].”

Principal chief of the Cherokees, Bill John Baker, said, “[T]ribal nations have survived disease, removal from our homelands, termination and other adversities, and still we prospered. However, I fear the opioid epidemic is emerging as the next great challenge of our modern era.”

The lawyers filing cases against the companies are hoping the multi-billion dollar corporations will start taking responsibility for the drugs they sell.

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LetThemEatRand's picture

I can already hear the defense:  "the drug takers have to take responsibility for the drugs they take." 

Meanwhile, the corporations owe no responsibility to anyone, including their shareholders.  And Sessions is working on a way to stop people from growing plants in Colorado and other states because it is a drug.

SgtShaftoe's picture

Don't worry. People will fight like hell to keep it legal or just make the sham that is the justice system naked for all to see. You could have a literal war in Colorado, Washington, etc.

AlaricBalth's picture

Don't forget the Medical Doctors who write the scrips. Instead of getting to the root cause of a patients problem, these docs just treat the symptom. The average visit in front of a doctor lasts 6 minutes. The nurse practitioner and support staff are responsible for the remainder of the visit.

WillyGroper's picture

there's laws in OK.

you're going to make repeated visits to the docs & only a 30day supply even for the terminal.

indians got their own clinics, docs & hospitals.

TBT or not TBT's picture

Where's Fauxcahontas on this.   She was Cherokee at Harvard.   

Peacefulwarrior's picture

Supplying an addictive product is a cornerstone to profitability and ethics seem to go on vacation simultaneously

robertsgt40's picture

Opiates, the 21st century version of whiskey for the Cherokee. 

tangent's picture

Just like prohibition part 1 in the 1920 got more and more violent until it ended, so too will prohibition part 2. So yes, this will escelate into actual war just like it has in Mexico. And the human rights advocates will win every time. Meaning, those in the black market who believe in property rights and the right to consume any food or drug we so choose.

ACES FULL's picture

Many people are complaining because its much harder to get prescriptions, or keep their prescriptions, for painkillers now. Many turned to harder street drugs that are easier to get in lots of places in America. Street dealers are spiking herion with fentanyl, carfentanil {elephant tranquilizer} etc which has lead to a spike in overdoses. Now first responders are clamoring for funding so they will have Narcan {naloxone} to treat opiod overdose. Plenty of blame to go around, including with the individual who chooses {key word} to ruin, or end, their lives with hard drugs. We are a culture that has become lost and looking for an easy fix, pardon the pun. One way or another, its usually all about the money.

Lanka's picture

When bread and circuses are not enough, add drugs. 

runswithscissors's picture

The CIA is likely to blame.

BeanusCountus's picture

From what I read you are on the money. Doubt that vicodin or the simple shit the problem. Relative to huge increase in scrips for em, seems small. Mixers are the bad news. Fentanyl seems to be a key, plus folks who combine with xanex/valium. Which would kill ya anyway. And to the native americans, sorry, but the alcohol manufacturers seem a more likely target for your suit.

Yog Soggoth's picture

Oxys are opiates, meaning they are as addictive as heroin. So what if the over the counter won't kill you immediately. Most people are hooked for life. The doctors hand them out for every stupid ailment. I know someone who got hooked when he was 12 for a broken arm. The doctors get kickbacks for prescribing them which should be a hanging offence.

not dead yet's picture

Let's see now. we are importing boatloads of illegal fentynal from China and Mexico and huge loads of CIA Afghan heroin, Mexican too, along with plenty of coke from South America and it's the doctors fault. There are also illegal labs all over the country cooking meth or making ecstacy. We've had a drug problem in this country for over a hundred years and especially since the Nam war when so many came home addicts and the Asian supply lines followed. So all of a sudden it's big pharmas fault? Unless they are stolen every pill needs a prescription. Even then you have to show ID and sign the register which gets sent to the FED's. It's all tightly controlled. So tell us how your warped brain blames big pharma for it. Are their reps standing on every corner or on every reservation giving out a free 100 lb box of the stuff to all comers? Not. Just as with alcohol Americans just can't get enough. Doctors and pharma are the targets because they can be sued and your supplier of illegal stuff can't. Supposedly once any opiods are in the body they can't be told whether it's heroin or and man made and there has been a heroin epidemic in this country for a long time. Notice the considerable numbers ending up in the emergency room after their illegal stuff was loaded with illegal fentynal. Did big pharma do that?

Just another bunch of made up bullshit by those wanting to legalize all drugs. Blame the docs or kids getting into the medicine cabinet when the real problem is the illegal stuff. There are huge busts of illegal drugs every year yet the agencies claim they only catch 5 to 10%. Legalizing drugs is a very poor idea BUT the war on drugs is worse. So legalize away and let the dumb asses die from their own stupidity. If they can't afford help or commit a crime to get drug money throw them in the hole and go cold turkey or die.

What I find amazing is how many stupid ignorant Americans haven't got a clue about personal responsibility. Everyones a victim in their warped minds. It's the banks, the breweries, the doctors and big pharma, the cigarrette companies, or whatever and everyone is a victim of their machinations. People do stupid things and it's even stupider people who defend that stupidity. Actual victims of most anything are looked upon as fakers out to make a quick buck and if injured it's claimed they are faking. Like the woman who gets raped by an intruder who the jury let's off because the woman didn't fight back so she must have "enjoyed it" or "asked for it" even though the guy broke in while she was sleeping. Or her statements were conflicting because she was in shock but the jury didn't see it that way and let the guy off even though there was overwhelming proof of rape.

not dead yet's picture

My wife has asthma and for years needed non prescription Sudafed. Original Sudafed was one of the ingredients for making meth. Meth heads would clean out the racks so by FED regulation behind the counter it went. To get this stuff we had to show ID which was then entered in the FED database before they handed it over. We could get 20 pills, she needed 28 as they were 12 hour pills, for 2 weeks. Come back before then and you got nothing as the FED database had all your info. All this for a safe non addictive sinus pill. Imagine the database and regs on the prescribed opiods.

dark pools of soros's picture

Just legalize it all. No one gives a damn about anyone except to stop you from enjoying yourself

Blankone's picture

From Rand: I can already hear the defense: "the drug takers have to take responsibility for the drugs they take."

Well, that is the proper defense, and logic. It is not an "excuse" because no excuse is needed. Those people need to accept responsibility for their decisions. In this case the corporations do not even prescribe the drug.

The indian's need to sue the alcohol companies for their alcoholism problems as well then. And the junk food and soft drink companies for the obesity problems in the indian community.

While they are at it they need to sue the entertainment industry for their rape and incest problems. No one seems to want to discuss it but many of the indian communities on tribal lands/reservations have huge problems with child abuse and rape in general.

Not sure who they should sue over their very poor education levels.

Or as I suspect, did I miss the sarcasm intended.

auricle's picture

Blaming someone else for your bad decisions. Why don't they sue the alcohol industry while they are at it. 

SoDamnMad's picture

This just in from Maxine Waters office:

Are dee Russians named in this suit? We be know dey are behind these opiates distributed to all black peoples and now de Indians too.  I shall call for an immediate investigation into the Russians being behind this.

Gen. Ripper's picture

I know how to fix it - 1st offense, warning, 2nd offense jail, 3rd offense death

LetThemEatRand's picture

You mean selling opiods or buying them?

tangent's picture

I see you like the North Korean approach. Well, that has its drawbacks. Look into North Korea to see why this idea may not work. Personally I feel like I have the right to use any force I see fit to stop someone like you from interfering my right to put in my body whatever I wish, be that food, drugs, or even bleach. My body is my choice, not your choice. So, I'd rather you end up dead than the addicts you are trying to kill.

markovchainey's picture

End drug prohibition. 

ILikeBoats's picture

Purdue Pharma, privately owned by the ((( Sackler ))) family - made over $5Billion in profit from their scam reformulation of OxyContin, which they KNEW would cause addiction.

not dead yet's picture

More bullshit brought to you by those who wish to make money off Americans stupidity. Most any drug can become addictive if used long enough. 

Eahudimac's picture

Bullshit. No one is forcing these drugs down their throats. Legalize all drugs, then this won't be a problem anymore. 

LetThemEatRand's picture

Have you watched TV lately?  They sell drugs like cars and cigarettes back in the day.  4 out of 5 doctors smoke Camels.

LetThemEatRand's picture

Quaint is a good description of the brain pattern of someone who would be for the war on drugs while private corporations sell the same drugs legally (with patents no less) knowing full well many will end up in the hands of addicts.

BingoBoggins's picture

Ahh, that's better! Thought you might have been wishy washy deflecting perhaps. You, sir, are merely subtle. Actually, quaint is the novelty of our past. Which ity ain't Quaint is the passive aggressive responce of a ... chicken man, at least in my book. I'm just sardonic. and pissed, for the lack of sensitivity of someone after you. Spent some time on the Res. We hit off grandly. We all knew we were fucked. (con't)



BingoBoggins's picture

Now, Mr. Rand, here's an exhibit of another personality type -


"Fucking Injuns should have stuck with liquor".

Now, this statement effected an emotional response in me. _ _   _ _ _ _

 Others implied personal responsibility was lacking, with no cause afforded the Medical Industry.

To which I might reply, "NO, they just prescribe the shit".And, to guess who? Why, quite a number of vulnerable people. (blink!) I wonder how many, oh, say, Lakota people just up and said, " I wonder how many white pricks would like to say that to my face today?" I've witnessed just such an event, so it does occur.

Appreciate your candor and your annoyance, Mr. Rand. I'll leave my scribbling with this, unless anyone would like to discuss this. Unfortunately, we can't exactly step into the fresh air, allowing an unimpeded and stimulating debate.  ... good day, sir.

dark pools of soros's picture

The whitey cracker chemicals too much for your peace pipes? Do you guys even have to work? At least the Amish make a good shed

Miffed Microbiologist's picture

Maybe they should put cocaine back in Coke. We'd work a hell of a lot harder and delay our jobs being taken over by robots for a couple of years. Wow, I think I need a drink.


LetThemEatRand's picture

There are several European countries that have legalized even "hard" drugs and that have much more functioning societies than the US.  The war on drugs is a money-making operation.  Treatment is the answer, not jail.  

YourAverageJoe's picture

Yes to treatment for those that WANT to change, public humiliation for those that don't or won't.

LetThemEatRand's picture

Even Rush Limbaugh (a complete asshole in my opinion and tool of the oligarchs, but not a slacker by any definition) was an addict.  He changed because he was facing prosecution.  And he's a guy who had every monetary means available to fix the problem before it became a crisis.

YourAverageJoe's picture

Yer right about that, especially the ones that target the bipolar women out there.


(I'm looking at you Bernice, you fucking cunt)

AC_Doctor's picture

Fucking Injuns should have stuck with liquor...


End drug prohibition and put the CIA out the drug business for good.

tangent's picture

Portugual solved this problem almost entirely by completely decriminalizing drug posession. OD deaths down 2/3rds. Additions down 2/3rds. When people respect human rights, good things happen. And yes, we have a right to consume anything we wish because our bodies are our choice.

Shue's picture

You forgot to ad prisoners, down by 75%.

DirtySanchez's picture

Purdue Pharma is hooking Americans on their hillbilly heroin.

People get injured or ill and doctors prescribe oxycontin or oxycodone.

Highly addictive prescrition opiates lead dependent people to eventually head to the street dealers for heroin.

This is by design.

There is orchestrated evil amongst us, from the highest elected offices, FDA, and big pharma corporations bribing officals in order to destroy and make dependent US citizens.



WillyGroper's picture

that's some funny shit.

perhaps they should look into their casinos, pac$$, gerimandering that they are the major contributors to.

native american genocide 2.0.

it's always someone elses fault.

let's leave out the afgani illegal war rat lines.

follow the money.

CRM114's picture

Name me a Reservation that doesn't try to make cash out of people's additions to smokes, gambling and alcohol.

Pot, Kettle.

Blankone's picture

I've bought and used some of the indians evil products. And it is an evil plot to debase the nonindian population. They are responsible for all the problems any person who chose to purchase such products from them might have had or still have.

The indians must be sued out of existence to protect the vulnerable people who could not (and those future clients who can not) be responsible for themselves. The indians must be responsible for everyone else.

YourAverageJoe's picture

After some fucking old geezer smashed me on my motorcycle when I was stopped at the intersection of Hwy 36 at Hwy 290 in Brenham, Texas, in October 2014, I've needed to take vicodin so I can do my job. I take two pills, one when I wake up, and one at lunch, not for entertainment, but to keep my job. I'm never comfortable, but I can eeek thru to the end of each day.

This kind of shit is already fucking with my ability to get prescriptions and has greatly increased my costs as my doctor has to cover his ass so as not to be viewed as an enabler. I even had some 20 something Walgreens pharmacy boy question me as to why I used a different Walgreens to fill a script than the standard one I use. I told him it was on my way to work, which it was, andwould you like to analyze my MRI's to see if I'm worthy of your judgement?

I worry what im gonna do when they won't let anyone have access to this necessary medicine.

I say let the druggies have all they want so they will die and let the producers produce.

Yars Revenge's picture

Up next: Cherokees sue big alcohol for turning them all into drunk Injuns. 

user2011's picture

These fuckers are damn racists and evil. Even after all these years, they still want to kill off all the native Americans. Next in line will be the mexicans and the blacks. Asians will be followed.